Breaking down the color barrier in various industries seems to be a common thread among many African American professionals. For MSNBC news anchor Tamron Hall, defying the odds as being one of the leading on-air anchors on television was something that she envisioned since the age of 12.
“When I was 10 or 12 years old there was this woman on the ABC affiliate named Ayola Johnson. And my father turned and said, ‘That’s going to be you,’ she said in an interview with The Huffington Post.
“She had the big Texas hair, and she had perfect diction and poise. And she ruled this anchor desk. This was well before Oprah. I never had seen anyone who looked like me, and made feel like this is what I could do. And wasn’t even hard edge, ‘this is what you could do Tamron.’ It was just something inside me and I went, ‘Wow.’”
Indeed, Hall’s humble beginnings from rural Luling, Texas, to the top of the media industry came with countless hours of labor as an assignment reporter in Dallas to an anchor in Chicago. However, according to Hall, she did bear witness to the lack of black journalists in a few newsrooms.
“When I first started out as a young journalist, I know that on at least two occasions, when I walked into a newsroom I knew I was replacing the black person in that job,” she revealed. “There was always one reporter or one anchor. In fact, I replaced the same woman in Dallas and in Chicago. And she was the only African American on air in Dallas. I went to Chicago and she was the reporter/anchor, which just happened to be the job that I was being interviewed for, and that was the person that I replaced.”
“So there was this thing where I would go into a newsroom and feel a little uncomfortable because I thought to myself, ‘I’m not probably replacing the blonde. I’m not probably replacing the white guy,’ she added. “Sadly, I’m probably here to replace this person, and two times it proved to be true. I think that’s less so certainly now. Didn’t happen to me here when I was hired by MSNBC and NBC. But did happen to me early on in my career.”
As for diversity in today’s news, the Texas native feels that it has improved. Although there are more African Americans in front many of today’s news networks, Hall said she still feels there is a lack of minorities making executive decisions.
“For so long I think so many young journalists focused on being on camera, because we thought this will prove that we’re here,” she said. “It shows the audience at home that there’s diversity. I think there needs to be a focus on executive producing, because these are the people who put the lineups together. And there are the editors, the news managers, these are the people who build a product along with the on-air talent. And I don’t see a lot of African American executive producers or managing editors in those jobs.”
The interview was conducted as part of HuffPost Black Voices’ Black in Media series, which will examine black journalists' experiences in the media industry as well as their thoughts on the media's coverage of racial issues.